Arsenal 3 – 0 Liverpool
Four weeks earlier, the media had handed Liverpool the title when the FA deducted two points from Arsenal following the brawl at Old Trafford. The procession for their coronation had left Fleet Street and was heading northwards for the remainder of the season at a leisurely pace.
After the Commission had wreaked havoc and handed the Merseysiders an eight-point advantage, it was hardly surprising. They, like Arsenal, were unbeaten but had not dropped as many points; they were winning for the most part whilst Arsenal had drawn a couple more games.
And then the wheels on the Liverpudlian bus didn’t come off but they developed a slow puncture. Unconvincing wins and a draw whilst Arsenal got back to winning ways left this match in an interesting balance.
An Arsenal win would see the gap close to three points; anything else maintained the title balance in Liverpool’s favour with an away win all but crowning them champions.
Arsenal were in no mood to surrender meekly. As in 1989, Graham used the media to his advantage following Old Trafford and built a siege mentality in an already strong squad. Then-Liverpool manager played into his hands by dropping Peter Beardsley whilst Graham used the home thrashing by Manchester United as a reason to bring in a third centre-back. Lacking Beardsley’s guile, most of Liverpool’s attacking play was direct and dull prior to Paul Merson breaking the deadlock with a header which TV proved cross the line.
A cheaply won penalty that would get Glenn Hysen into trouble with the FA following his assertion that Anders Limpar went to ground ‘softly’ – he did have a point but we didn’t care – gave Arsenal complete control of the match with Alan Smith’s third the icing on the cake.
Arsenal were back in the hunt, three points behind with seeds of doubt sewn in Liverpudlian minds. The title wobbles hadn’t struck with this defeat but they weren’t far off.
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